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CALL FOR PAPERS: Theatrical Representations of Prisons and Imprisonment.
ATHE CONFERENCE July 31 – August 3, 2008
Grand Hyat Hotel; Denver, Colorado, USA.
In April, 1910, British Home Secretary Winston Churchill attended a performance of John Galsworthy’s Justice, a play focusing on the criminal justice system in general and the psychological results of solitary confinement in particular. The following July, Churchill, in a fiery speech to the House of Commons, proposed a complete overhaul of the UK penal system.
John Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes opened in New York on February 23, 1967. During one Tuesday night post-show discussion, an audience member challenged the play’s accuracy, claiming that prison life could not be as brutal and degrading as depicted in the play. Another audience member, former convict Peter McGarry responded with a description of prison life that lasted more than half an hour, painting a picture at least as bleak as that in the play. Producer David Rothenberg shortly thereafter founded The Fortune Society, an organization devoted to giving former offenders a public voice and to helping them rebuild their post-prison lives. Today, The Fortune Society serves over 4,000 ex-prisoners annually and employs a staff of 175 people, seventy percent of whom are former offenders.
The Culture Project’s 2002 production of The Exonerated, Jessica Blank and Erika Jensen’s docudrama about wrongfully convicted death row inmates, enjoyed sold-out houses in New York and toured the United States. Less than a month after seeing the production, Governor George Ryan commuted all existing death row sentences in the state of Illinois and instituted a statewide moratorium on the death penalty. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers presented the writers, director and producer of the play their Champion of Justice Award.
In these and other (sometimes less uplifting) instances, prison plays have attempted to render the invisible visible by representing the usually hidden world of prison life under the glare of stage lights. Given the theme of this year’s ATHE conference (Difficult Dialogues: Theatre and the Art of Engagement), I am interested in forming a panel focusing on representations of prison, imprisonment, and incarceration in drama, theatre, and performance. How do these texts engage, catalyze, or simulate a “dialogue” about incarceration? How do theatrical representations of imprisonment vary from cinematic and televised representations? How are identity processes impacted, interrupted, and reconfigured by prisons, theatres, and prisons-within-theatres? What are the potential pitfalls of these representations?
Other possible topics/questions include:
- The efficacy of prison plays.
- Metatheatrical prison plays.
- Prison and theatre as “queer spaces.”
- The panopticon and the theatron
- The exoticization of the prisoner.
- Theatrical responses to Abu Ghraib and/or Guantanamo.
- “Western” representations of “other” prison systems (Latin America, Turkey, the Middle East, Africa)
- Prison musicals and/or operas.
- Prisons as tourist attractions.
- Representations of rehabilitation.
- Geopolitical prison plays.
- Prison as a function of national identity.
- Traveling prison plays: how does a play about a specific prison or prison system change when it is performed for an audience unfamiliar with that system?
- Giving voice to prisoners: Who can, or should be able to, claim that right?
- Etc. There are myriad possibilities.
Please submit an abstract, brief bio, and contact information by October 20, 2007 to frankepi [at] gmail.com or fepisale [at] gc.cuny.edu
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I believe that this year I will finally be putting in my applications for graduate programs. It seems like such a overwhelming process.
At this point, I am thinking of limiting myself to two or three programs. One of them is a continuation of my Russian language studies, which would focus on Russian literature and film. I have one Theatre PhD program picked out as well, that I feel would suit me well.
I'm not sure whether I should do the traditional application process -- ie, putting in applications at 5-8 schools. Somehow that doesn't seem right -- I don't think there are 5-8 schools to which I'd be prepared to go. Maybe it would be wisest to limit myself to 1-2 programs which I am sure I'd be glad to attend.
A PhD is a huge committment. As usual, thoughts of members who have been through this process are welcome!
I am working on a paper in Russian about soap operas. I am remembering that one theatre theorist claimed that the purpose of theatre was to "educate and delight" but I cannot remember who! Can anyone help out?
Hey everyone. I posted a few months ago about possibly going to grad school, and I'm actually very seriously considering doing it right out of undergrad right now. I thought you could help me find some programs I might be interested in.
I'm a 3rd year BFA Theatre Management student at The Theatre School at DePaul University. DePaul has been great; it was definitely the right choice for my undergrad, but I'm really looking to be far more academically challenged than I was here. I had thought about getting my MA in Performance Studies, but I'm still not too sure about just ending up teaching at the college level, so the two programs I'm looking at right now are U of Chicago's Masters of the Humanities (which has a Cultural Policy option) and Carnegie Mellon's Masters in Rhetoric. Both of these programs fit my most basic needs -- well-regarded academic school, and programs that are both "practical" (have management, writing, or policy courses) and "academic" (study of culture and anthropology, or classes in discourse and the public domain of rhetoric).
Can you think of any other programs like this? Anything in culture, the humanities, or performance studies type areas?
Yale backs off ban on weapons in plays
Posted Apr. 23, 2007
(New Haven-AP) _ Yale University has backed off a ban on prop weapons in school plays after an uproar over censorship.
Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg prohibited guns, swords, knives and other weapons in theatrical productions last week in response to the killings at Virginia Tech. But the university announced Monday that audiences will be notified in advance when weapons will be used. Officials also noted that Yale has a long-standing policy that the use of facsimile weapons are permitted on a case-by-case basis.
Two student directors were informed last week that they could not use weapons in their plays. The move sparked criticism about censorship of the arts, and some opponents said Yale was acting inappropriately to the Virginia Tech shootings, which left 33 people dead.
One student director gave an opening statement criticizing Yale before her play opened last week, and another has rewritten a portion of her play to make fun of the weapons ban.
Trachtenberg and Yale President Richard Levin did not respond to requests for comment.
Yale bans the use of staged weapons in theatrical productions:
I find this to be a very misguided response to the events at VT.
Stage combat is a discipline of wherein safety and respect for one's scene partners is paramount. People become fight directors in a large part because they don't want to see people getting hurt doing what they love.
Also, as I've published elsewhere, the representation of violence onstage is a far cry from the real thing.
Speaking as a fight director, a martial artist, and a self defense instructor, I've always found that the more people actually know about violence, the less they are likely to want to take any part in it. The most potentially "dangerous" people I've ever met were also the calmest and among the kindest. If we want to prevent violence, we had best understand it. Not censor it.
Here is a link to a Blog of Job Opportunities in Theatre Education. I hadn't come across it before, but it seems like a useful resource to include here.
For those who are currently applying to graduate school (and for that matter, internships and entry level positions!), I hope that things are going well. This is a very nervewracking time, and I hope that members can be supportive of each other. Keep us updated!